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UIUC/UMich/Cornell Decision

Mgoblue1Mgoblue1 Registered User Posts: 50 Junior Member
edited April 2011 in Engineering Majors
Hey everyone! I've finally heard back from all my schools and was looking for some outside input to help me in my decison-making process. So I'm accepted at Illinois (Mechanical Engineering), Michigan (College of Engineering), and Cornell (College of Engineering). I've visited all three, so I've already established some impressions of each school, but I was hoping to see what everyone else thought about the choices.

I'm in-state for UIUC, but price is not an issue.

Some background information about me and my interests...My passions really lie in energy/the environment (efficiency, energy production, green tech, etc), so I my original plan was to go through undergrad as a mechanical engineer, however, I'm not so sure anymore. Nuclear engineering is popping out at me, as is environmental engineering (although from what I've read, undergraduate environmental mostly concerns topics like water treatment/purification, something I'm not particularly drawn to. Graduate environmental work might be more up my alley?) Nuclear seems to be a blend of mechanical, modern physics, and electrical. Each major kind of hits a different aspect of my interest in energy, but I'm not totally sure I'll be able to sort out which I'm drawn to most until I actually start taking introductory courses related to each. Clarification about these different majors would be great, since I still haven't figured out which appeals to me most!

Right now, I'm looking at graduate school as a strong possibility, but that might change as time goes by. Though this might not affect where I go necessarily, its something to factor into the decision-making process. It's my understanding that mechanical engineers are very capable of taking a job straight out of undergraduate work, but is it similar for nuclear engineers or environmental engineers? Since I think I'm leaning toward R&D (basically requiring a graduate degree down the road) in whichever field I choose, will my undergrad major significantly affect how I can choose a grad school major?

Feedback from students/alumni would be great, I'd really appreciate info about facilities/housing/course rigor from the people who have been through it all! Tours can only go so far haha.

Anyway, I hope that wasn't too jumbled and nonsensical, it's pretty early in the morning. If you guys need any more information (specific interests or further explanation) feel free to ask! Thanks a ton guys!
Post edited by Mgoblue1 on

Replies to: UIUC/UMich/Cornell Decision

  • Yakyu SpiritsYakyu Spirits Registered User Posts: 825 Member
    Money is no option for you right? Michigan or Cornell. I'd say Cornell.
  • Mgoblue1Mgoblue1 Registered User Posts: 50 Junior Member
    Any particular reason why? Cornell just jumps out at you?
  • gtfotugtfotu Registered User Posts: 653 Member
    Cornell. Although it may be a few ranks lower, no ones gonna care about that difference in the long run. They'll look at the name.
  • Mgoblue1Mgoblue1 Registered User Posts: 50 Junior Member
    Is cornell's name that much more of a wow factor for employers when it comes to engineering? Since I may be going straight from undergrad to grad school, won't employers weigh grad school over undergrad?
  • noimaginationnoimagination Registered User Posts: 7,054 Senior Member
    If price is genuinely no issue, I'd vote for Michigan. It's engineering program is the best all-around, I significantly prefer Ann Arbor to Ithaca and U-C, and there aren't many other schools that combine top-notch academic prestige with a Big Ten environment.
  • Mgoblue1Mgoblue1 Registered User Posts: 50 Junior Member
    Thanks for that link mony, that sort of group really jumps out at me.

    And in response to noimagination, yeah, Michigan definitely has breadth in engineering disciplines that Cornell can't match up to (lack of nuclear would be what affects me the most). However, if I can go to grad school in nuclear or environmental with an undergraduate mechanical degree, a 'cornell' mechanical engineering degree might be the more valuable one (like gtfotu mentioned).
  • noimaginationnoimagination Registered User Posts: 7,054 Senior Member
    a 'cornell' mechanical engineering degree might be the more valuable one (like gtfotu mentioned)
    I'm not really sure if this is true. Michigan Engineering certainly seems to be well-recruited.
  • Mgoblue1Mgoblue1 Registered User Posts: 50 Junior Member
    Haha I'm going to go compare the job placement of the two then! Any alumni out there who can say anything about co-op/internships during undergraduate work?
  • monydadmonydad Registered User Posts: 7,746 Senior Member
    I'm a Cornell alum. They have a coop program, people do them, they can be very useful, what can I say. I didn't do one, I was a physics major in the arts & sciences college at the time , I did an M.Eng. there afterwards. They have nuclear engineering as a master's program. Placement was very good, when I was there anyway, though that was a long time ago.

    After I graduated, I went to work at a big midwest engineering company, and there were many UIUC grads there, doing the same job I was doing. So obviously going there didn't hurt them any for that company. Though I don't know what part of the class there they let in. The company interviewed regionally at basically all the proximate engineering programs, but they only interviewed out of region at certain very well known schools, such as Cornell, Rice, MIT. That experience suggests that there might be an advantage in access to out of region jobs. But since I didn't attend UIUC or Michigan I can't really say what their situations are. Plus this was all a long time ago.

    Later on I decided to leave engineering and attended business school. I got a job in a pretty snooty investment bank. The rumor at my MBA school was that this I-bank only took people from there who had attended an Ivy for undergrad. I think it was true.

    It didn't mean anything once you're hired, least of all for engineering which is about the most "where's the beef?" profession that exists. But I think it helped get me interviewed out of region initially for engineering, for that firm anyway, and almost certainly was pivotal for the I-bank later on.

    Over the course of my career I've worked with a number of UIUC graduates, and these people were very smart and very successful. I can't say whether they were the routine product or the cream of the crop there. But based on that snippet I have a very favorable impression of it.

    I haven't really worked with anyone from U Michigan. that I can recall.

    I think Ithaca is a great college town, it is beautiful and I loved it there. I have never been to these other schools. The work in engineering was tough, you should expect no less. At any of these schools.
  • Mgoblue1Mgoblue1 Registered User Posts: 50 Junior Member
    Thanks monydad, I really appreciate the alumni input! I think really what my decision is going to come down to is whether I want to go undergrad mechanical ( in which case I'd go Cornell or Michigan) or undergrad nuclear (uiuc or Michigan). I was emailing a professor at Michigan and he said taking an undergrad mechanical degree and moving into a masters nuclear program is doable, but would require significant catching up. So, I guess my next question would be, which discipline will take me the farthest? I know I'll enjoy either field, but does one stand out as distinctly 'better'? And I feel open to either a research position or going down the business path with an MBA (my dad did the same sort of thing monydad, and I already have a fairly strong interest in economics)!
  • monydadmonydad Registered User Posts: 7,746 Senior Member
    Believe it or not, the thing to do if you really want nuclear may be to go into naval ROTC.
    Because of the nuclear subs, the navy has become a major training ground for people who go into things nuclear. IIRC. At Cornell, mechanical would indeed be a good background, but perhaps the best one would be Applied & Engineering Physics. However AEP is a very serious major. The good thing is you don't have to select a major there till the end of sophomore year, for start of junior year. But I believe someone who did Mech E or AEP there, with coop or internships or whatever they do, and particualrly with naval ROTC, would be in pretty good shape. Maybe talk to someone at Cornell's Grad nuclear program and see what they think.

    Obviously mech E or AEP are less specialized fields for undergrad, they don't pigeonhole you for a particular industry. There may be some advantages to specializing early, as the prof indicated, but also some costs associated with early over-specialization. That particular industry has had rather dramatic ups and downs. IMO you should take a bunch of course work, and more leg work, first before making such committment. You might find you prefer something else altogether. On the other hand, it's preferable to attend a school that actually offers a program you think you might want, other things being equal.
  • Mgoblue1Mgoblue1 Registered User Posts: 50 Junior Member
    The thing that really puts Cornell and Michigan ahead is that neither requires you to declare a major until sophomore year. UIUC puts you straight into a major which kind of limits that introductory period that it looks like I'll need to sort out my interests a little more. And monydad, I'll definitely look into the AEP program some more (I was interested when I applies but I think I discounted it since it wasn't ABET accredited). When I go to the Cornell admitted students days I'm planning on checkin out what it has in terms of nuclear stuff (whether it's through the physics department or something) just to see if that option is on the table like it is at Michigan.

    And monydad, you said you really liked Ithaca? I didn't have much time to explore when I visited originally, but from what I saw, the surrounding area was absolutely gorgeous, but the town seemed a little bland.

    Also, another question I had for alumni was how the location of the dorms at Cornell (mostly in the back of campus?) played into things. I didnt notice much in terms of like bussing within the campus (though there was plenty on the outskirts) and was wondering if that ever became a problem? Thanks a ton everyone!
  • GShine_1989GShine_1989 Registered User Posts: 635 Member
    Hi, I'm an Illinois EE senior, graduating in about a month and headed off to grad school next year (probably Stanford EE PhD). I've had no interaction with Michigan, but I just visited Cornell a day ago for the prospective grad school visit. To be blunt, I didn't develop a very good opinion of it. The town sucked, being even colder and less populated than U-C. The novelty of the gorges wears thin quickly. The department is in decline, according to some of its own grad students that I talked to (but this only pertains to their ECE Dept., I don't know about the others). One of faculty that I talked to (a tenured guy!) directly told me to go to Stanford when I told him about my options (he said pick Stanford because "Stanford is ranked higher and there's a reason for that"). Though true, that's an astonishing statement coming from a Cornell professor as they're supposed to promote their own department... especially on recruiting day.

    Now, some clueless guys posting earlier were talking about the "name". Engineering is a professional field. Professional fields care about the ranking within their profession. Plenty of people pick JHU over Yale in medicine or NYU over Duke in law. Cornell is ranked slightly lower than Illinois or Michigan. This translates to its undergrad reputation being about the same as the other two and its graduate (i.e. research) reputation being lower. There isn't some magical value to being ivy league (unless you're set on Wall Street, in which case, go book your flight for Ithaca).

    My opinion of Cornell was colored by the pessimism of the ECE people, not MechE, although ECE is one of Cornell's best departments. Take it for what it's worth.

    Between Illinois and Michigan, I can't give solid advice because I've never visited Michigan or applied to it (its EE/MSE/Physics departments are mediocre in my research area). Normally I'd strongly recommend picking the cheapest one, but apparently you're filthy rich. I'll say that Michigan has a better town, so I'd learn towards it for majors where Illinois is worse or has an insignificant lead. One thing: being put straight into a major is merely superficial at Illinois for freshmen. The differences in the first-year curriculum are trivial, as is the switching process, so this is a non-issue.
  • Mgoblue1Mgoblue1 Registered User Posts: 50 Junior Member
    Alright I dont quite have the time to respond in full right now, but I will by tomorrow morning! Bump bump
This discussion has been closed.